Saturday, 9 July 2011

Something Fishy.

We are often being told that we should have more fish in our diet and that will certainly be my aim once I set sail.  

To catch, prepare and cook the local fish, wherever I am, is an attractive  prospect (and will save me a few pennies, which is a bonus).  However, in order to do this I need to develop a few more skills in this area and whilst I count myself as a reasonable cook, my experiences of ‘the catch of the day’ only stretch as far as what you can find in Tescos or on the menu of the local pub or restaurant.

So to start the ball rolling, I took myself off to Billingsgate Fish Market at 0430 yesterday morning for a course in fish preparation and knife skills.

Once there the day started with a tour of the market itself, guided and informed my a gentleman call Charlie; a self-confessed, self-trained, life-long fishmonger who, after National Service, decided not to work on the railways around Stratford like the rest of his family (if he had, he might well have met my Dad), but instead went into the fish trade.

Charlie has seen it all and knows it all and I could think of no one better to give us the tour.  We were shown how to choose the best fish, what to look for, how things should feel and smell and some of the tricks of the fishmongers’ trade.  We also had a crash course in fish recognition and introduced to some of the less heard of species. 

One of the most poignant things that Charlie pointed out to us was how the British choose their fish by sight, not by taste, preferring to have a white tasteless fish rather than something that may be grey, but more flavorsome - unlike other parts of the world.  But things are starting to change in the UK, slowly.

After breakfast we met Adam, who for the next 5 hours gave us instruction and guidance on how to gut, gill, descale, skin, pin-bone, fillet and slice both flat and round fish.  He made it look so easy. At the end of the day we were given a whole salmon each which we all prepared into various cuts (see the photos) which is testament to Adam’s skills as a teacher.

Salmon - before
Salmon - after

It was a steep learning curve, but a throughly enjoyable day that I would recommend to anyone.  Billingsgate Training School run a number of other courses, including cookery courses, and judging from the smells coming from the kitchens, the standards are high.  As a bonus, we all came away with cool bags full of the fish we had prepared and I am another step closer to living the dream!

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